A few of us at Kotaku have been obsessed recently with Cult of the Lamb, the buzzy new Devolver-published roguelike about a cult led by a lamb. Last week, Kotaku’s Sisi Jiang asked me a simple question about the game in Slack: “Are we the baddies?”
“Absolutely,” I said. “But I’ve been way too preoccupied with things like Having Fun to scrutinize whether or not the little lamb is the villain.”
Then I thought for more than 0.2 seconds about the game’s resurrection mechanic. I…probably should’ve focused less on having fun.
Released last week for consoles and PC, Cult of the Lamb is a roguelike management sim—an odd-sounding mix of genres that clicks better than you’d expect—in which you’re cast as the world’s last living lamb. A bunch of deities kill you. An old god resurrects you, deems you its champion, grants you the blessing (curse?) of immortality, and tasks you with freeing it. To do so, you need to kill the gods who initially killed you. To do that, you need to recruit a cult of anthropomorphic animals, who in turn help ramp up your fighting prowess.
Over time, your followers, like all beings unfortunately tethered to a mortal coil, will die. But you can remedy this, ad infinitum, if you have enough resources—and the right ability.
During the city-management portion of Cult, you can perform rituals, cooldown-based abilities that grant immediate benefits to your flock’s dwindling satisfaction meters. As you play, you’ll naturally earn commandment stones. These allow you to unlock new rituals from one of five categories. Once you hit the second tier of the afterlife category, you’ll get the chance to unlock the ritual of resurrection. It costs 75 bones (37 if you have the cheaper rituals skill unlocked), boosts the loyalty meter for all of your followers, and allows you to bring one dead follower back to life. Rough cooldown, though.
There are a number of reasons why you’d want to bring a deceased follower back to life. For one, you needn’t go through the process of naming and customizing that follower all over again, as you would with a new one. For another, they’ll come back to life at the same level they died, which offers bonuses toward their success rate on missionary trips—wherein a member of your cult disappears for a few days before either dying or returning with a pile of meat. And then, I suppose, there’s the matter of sentimentality. For instance, I named my first follower after Puck, one of my cats. (This was before I realized members of your flock could die.)
When a follower dies, you have two choices as to what to do with the corpse. You can bury it. Or you can harvest the meat. Harvested follower meat can be used in a dish called minced follower meat, which restores a modicum of a living follower’s constantly depleting hunger meter. I cooked the meal, just to see what would happen, then walked away. (When you cook food in Cult of the Lamb, it’s automatically placed on the ground for the next hungry follower of yours to eat.)
I then revived Puck, because obviously. To be clear, I’m not totally positive what happened next, but all signs point to Puck eating his own dead body. I didn’t see it happen in real time. But by the time morning rolled around in Cult’s in-game clock, the dish was gone. And Puck’s hunger meter was full.
So therein lies a potential feedback loop in Cult of the Lamb, one you could theoretically make use of indefinitely to keep your cult strong—if you have no soul. Your follower dies. You harvest the meat. You revive them. You feed them their own meat…until they die again. Rinsh, wash (thoroughly, please), repeat.
Anyway, as I told Sisi, yes, in Cult of the Lamb, we’re absolutely, unequivocally the baddies. I just wish I realized it earlier, before I maybe fed my cat to my cat.